Ever since the establishment of the Rural Electrification Administration by Franklin Roosevelt back in May of 1935, America has been served by a nearly universal electrical grid. A new technology, Broadband-over-Powerline (BPL), intends to provide high-speed Internet service over that grid, so that everywhere there’s power, there’s also the possibility of high-speed Internet.
But what if, at the flick of a switch, radios stopped working? What if police radios, emergency response radios, fire radios, aircraft communications radios, radios used in commercial communications, and even ham radios just stopped working?
This is exactly what opponents of Broadband-over-Powerline claim could happen if BPL were allowed to be implemented on a wide-spread basis.
Is it true? Is BPL the helpful key to nearly universal high-speed Internet access or a technology that could cripple our critical radio frequency infrastructure? This is the question that we set out to answer.
David conducted a comprehensive, 12-article study of the technology and concluded BPL was a technology that was both potentially dangerous to our nation’s emergency response infrastructure and provided too little unique value to be pursued. He subjected the obscure technology of Broadband-over-Powerline to an in-depth analysis, bringing in discussions by both proponents and opponents, resulting in the most in-depth analysis of the issue ever published.
The result: in May 2008, the Dallas Morning News reported the largest Broadband-over-Powerline deployment in the U.S. was sold to a local utility. Instead of using it to provide consumer broadband service, the deployment will be used for electrical grid monitoring.
Was David’s analysis instrumental in protecting us from Broadband-over-Powerline? We’ll never really know, but we do know that his study was the single most comprehensive study of its kind.
Presented in order of publication, here’s the full analysis as it progressed from curiosity to closure:
Even back in 2006, broadband technology was changing at a wildly accelerated pace. Whether it’s EvDO technology in your then-new Treo 700p or WiFi in your local coffee shop, it’s clear Internet access is leaving POTS (Plain Ol’ Telephone System) connections behind. It seemed that one of most exciting areas of innovation was Broadband-over-Powerline (BPL) technology, which distributes high-speed Internet connectivity over your household powerlines. David began his in-depth examination of BPL in a detailed, exclusive interview with Chano Gomez, one of the leading experts on this technology. Little did he know the firestorm that would erupt.
David continued his examination of Broadband-over-Powerline technology in the second part of his exclusive interview with Chano Gomez, one of the leading experts on this technology.
Wow! All we could say was "Wow"! We ran what seemed like a perfectly innocuous interview with an expert on what seemed like a perfectly innocuous topic: Broadband-over-Powerline (BPL). It seemed like the perfect no-brainer: more broadband, no extra wires, and high-speed Internet to countries with no other infrastructure. Apparently, not everyone agreed.
David continued his in-depth coverage of the Broadband-over-Powerline (BPL) controversy. Is it a benign technology that can bring broadband to the unwired masses or is it a disaster waiting to happen? At Computing Unplugged, we honestly did’t know. The manufacturers have a heck of a story to tell, but if you read analysis by technical experts, like this one from engineer Bill South, you get an entirely different perspective.
By the fourth article, everyone who regularly read Computing Unplugged noticed that our summer editorial has been devoted to a single topic. We devoted our article-level coverage to a single, apparently obscure topic called Broadband-over-Powerline, otherwise known as BPL. Why? In this article, David explained why this issue is important for us all to understand.
We continue our editorial coverage of the Broadband-over-Powerline (BPL) controversy with a letter from Ed Hare, Laboratory Manager of the ARRL (American Radio Relay League). The ARRL has be the most vocal opponent we’ve seen to BPL and, in this article, we give their technical expert the opportunity to discuss the issue.
If you’d been following our Broadband-over-Powerline (BPL) back in 2006, you’d see we’d come up with more questions than answers. As part of David’s attempt to expose all sides of this issue, we’ve been looking for true experts who can help us understand the issue. In researching the issue, he turned up Glenn Elmore. We’re very grateful for Glenn in helping us understand this issue in far more depth than we’ve been able to thusfar. As a radio amateur and a BPL researcher, Glenn’s getting us answers as close to the core of the problem as we think we’re going to be able to find.
Throughout our research into BPL, we talked about interference issues. In his in-depth interview, Glenn Elmore introduced the question of data rate across the various technologies. In this short, highly technical article, Elmore shows how that data rate applies over a variety of "last-mile pipes".
We continue our editorial coverage of the Broadband-over-Powerline (BPL) controversy with a letter from Fred Stevens, a retired US Army Signal Corps Lieutenant Colonel who’s also an Amateur Radio operator. Fred took issue with some of our coverage of the BPL issue. Given his unique background, we asked him to expand upon his letter (he was quite annoyed with us).
This is a worthy read. Fred has some very interesting perspectives. Because of some of the more controversial comments in the article, we’re obliged to state that the opinions of the author are not necessarily that of Computing Unplugged Magazine, the editors (especially David), or ZATZ Publishing.
When David first began his coverage of Broadband-over-Powerline (BPL), members of the ham radio community who also read Computing Unplugged made sure we understood that there’s actually a controversy here, an important one. As he began to research the topic further, one organization’s name kept coming up over and over: the American Radio Relay League, better known as the ARRL. After some back and forth dialog, Allen Pitts, Media and Public Relations Manager for the ARRL, agreed to be interviewed by David in Computing Unplugged. What follows is that interview.
Poor Chano Gomez! When he pitched us an interview on Broadband-over-Powerline (BPL), little did this BPL manufacturer know that he’d be touching off a firestorm of debate. Two months and more than a dozen articles later, Chano’s graciously consented to another interview, this time to answer the charges against BPL from its detractors. We have to give special "props" to Chano. Not only did he agree to step up and answer some tough questions, he also did so while on vacation in Europe. So, special thanks go out to him for taking the time to help us understand this issue more fully.
Is BPL the helpful key to nearly universal high-speed Internet access or a technology that could cripple our critical radio frequency infrastructure? This is the question that Computing Unplugged Magazine set out to answer. This article contains the result of David’s in-depth analysis.